What Does It Mean To Be Atypical?


As an ABA Instructor in Early Intervention, I love working with young children and helping them learn and grow.  However, I sometimes wondered how will the world perceive my kiddos when they get older – will they be able to live a “normal” life?  I can imagine that many parents have those same concerns.  I think that Netflix does a great job discussing these concerns with their show Atypical.  If you’re not familiar with the show, it follows the life of Sam, a teen age boy diagnosed with autism, as he tries to have the “typical teenage experience” in high school: first loves, high school dances, after school jobs and more.  This show is about one person with autism; each person is NOT the same, so please keep this in mind when reading this post/watching the show.

The show does an amazing job portraying Sam’s relationships with his family, friends, and coworkers honestly and sympathetically.  Sam’s parents each try to cope with his diagnosis very differently; his mom attends a support group, while his dad pretends to the outside world that Sam doesn’t have autism.  It can be easy to judge Sam’s dad here, but it’s important to remember that both parents are looking for some way to escape handling their stress, which is something we all look for from time to time.  Throughout the show, both of Sam’s parents are truly there for their son when he needs them.  The show also explores Sam’s relationship with his younger sister.  She often has to act like an “older sister” and make decisions that would be best for Sam.  What is cool to me is that, although she acts like a guardian angel, protecting him from bullies and making sure he has the best day he can, she also looks up to her older brother for advice like any little sister would.

Outside of Sam’s family we see his friends, coworkers, his girlfriend, and his therapist. They each help him try to understand love, a concept none of them have mastered.  It was interesting to see how eager Sam was to obtain an understanding of love.  He was willing to follow advice that he know would make him uncomfortable – the things we do for love!

The show really highlights how autism isn’t something that makes someone “atypical.”  Typically, no one is typical.  We all have quirks and traits that make us unique from one another, but we find our way to make those quirks work.  Sam is just another teenager trying to do the same thing.  When I think about my kiddos and their futures, I hope they have people in their lives who don’t see them as “atypical” but instead, unique.  Instead of hoping that my kiddos have a “normal” life, I hope they have a great life.  Do any of us really live a “normal” life anyway?

Submitted by Alexandria Guy

Photo credit: http://www.theculturemom.com/netflixs-atypical-will-help-parent-child-spectrum-feel-less-alone/


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